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Hear This: Alt-J – 3WW

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Alt-J have dropped the first taster from their forthcoming third album in the form of '3WW'.

Alt-J‘3WW’ isn’t exactly a huge departure from their signature sound, but it’s a triumphant return to form after their fourth member, Gwil Sainsbury, left the band in 2014.

The track opens with a lengthy 90 second instrumental, humming with faint drums and the gentle plucks of an acoustic guitar. It’ll be a test for some listeners, but what emerges on the other side is too beautiful to miss.

On the surface, ‘3WW’ is a humble tale of a “wayward lad” and a sexual encounter around a campfire.

As Joe Newman and Gus Unger-Hamilton’s helium vocals emerge, ‘3WW’ becomes a poignant meditation on love, miscommunication, and the myth of language. "Oh, these three worn words” they exclaim, in a glorious burst of sound that cuts sharply through the mumbling intro.

For the leading track of their sophomore album, 'Hunger of the Pine', producer Charlie Andrew sampled Miley Cyrus to stunning effect. Here, Ellie Roswell of Wolf Alice makes an equally brilliant contribution. She’s intertwined with Newman in the last chorus: “I just want to love you in my own language”, they sing, Roswell illuminating this subversive folk tale with her incandescent voice.

In a newsletter accompanying the single, the band said: “Let’s not beat around the bush – we think it could be the best thing we’ve done to date.” It’s a bold statement, but not necessarily false. ‘3WW’ is sonically dextrous, laden with profound lyrics, and a masterclass in restraint and release. It’s a stunning return from the Mercury Prize-winning trio.

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